Tuesday, February 07, 2017

We need more young MP's

One of the benefits of MMP is that it has given us a Parliament which looks far more like New Zealand. Not nearly enough - it still under-represents women and ethnic groups other than Pakeha and Maori - but our House is a far more diverse place than it was in the Bad Old Days of FPP where you could count the number of MPs who weren't dead white males on the fingers of one hand.

One of the areas we still do very badly in is representing younger people. The problem is apparent from this graph, stolen from Bryce Edward's article on the demographics of the 51st Parliament:

As you can see, we over-represent the middle-aged, while there are very few people representing the under-30's.

This is a problem. It undermines our democracy, and it has significant effects on policy. You can't help but feel that if decisions on the environment and child poverty were being made by people who will actually have to live with the consequences, they would end up in a very different place.

All of which is background to this morning's comment by (middle-aged) political commentator Bryce Edwards opposing the Greens selecting younger candidates that "I just don't think we want a parliament full of 20 and 30 year olds". Obviously, we don't want a Parliament full of one demographic to the exclusion of all others - that would be unrepresentative. Equally obviously, we don't have that, and the Greens selecting younger candidates won't result in that outcome (it might increase 20-30 representation from the current ~2% to maybe 4% if they're wildly successful). But most importantly: we clearly need more young MPs, and the Greens are on the right path from a representational point of view. As for Edwards, his comments just come across simply as Trotteresque privileged whining, identical to those who whine about "too many" women on party lists (hint: anything less than 50% is not "too many").

We need more young MP's, so our Parliament looks like New Zealand and the interests of the young are properly represented. And clearly, we need more young political commentators as well, so that we're not constantly swamped with the opinions of privileged old white dudes.